British Gods: Religion in modern Britain by Steve Bruce (OUP, £25 (£22.50); 978-0-19-885411-1).
“The big picture is well-known: over the past century, religion in Britain has lost power, popularity, and plausibility. Here, Steve Bruce charts the quantifiable changes in religious interest and observance over the past 50 years by returning to a number of towns and villages that were the subject of detailed community studies in the 1950s and 1960s, to see how the status and nature of religion has changed. Drawing on both detailed data on baptism rates, church weddings, church attendance and the like, and on his extensive fieldwork, he considers the broader picture of religion today: the status of the clergy, the churches’ attempts to find new roles, links between religion and violence, and the impact of the charismatic movement. Along the way, Bruce encounters and engages with the contemporary rise of secularism, considering our everyday secular tensions with religion: arguments over moral issues such as abortion and gay rights, the effect of social class on belief, the impact of religion on British politics, and the ways that local social structures strengthen or weaken religion. Analysing the obstacles to any religious revival, he explores how the current stock of religious knowledge is so depleted, religion so unpopular, and committed believers so scarce that any significant reversal of religion's decline in Britain is unlikely.”
Salvation to the Ends of the Earth: A biblical theology of mission by Andreas J. Köstenberger and T. D. Alexander (IVP, £16.99 (£15.29); 978-1-78359-589-1).
“Few biblical topics are as important as mission. Mission is linked inextricably to humanity’s sinfulness and need for redemption, and to God's provision of salvation in the person and work of Jesus Christ. This ‘good news’ of salvation must be made known. The saving mission of Jesus constitutes the foundation for Christian mission, and the Christian gospel is its message. This second edition of Salvation to the Ends of the Earth emphasises the way in which the Bible presents a continuing narrative of the story of God's mission — ranging from the story of Israel to the story of Jesus and that of the early Christians. At the same time, importantly, it provides a robust historical and chronological backbone to the unfolding of the early Christian mission. With regard to the latter, Paul and the General Epistles are incorporated with the Gospel with which they have the closest and most natural canonical and historical affinity: James and Hebrews with Matthew; 1 - 2 Peter and Jude with Mark; Paul's letters with Luke-Acts; and 1 - 3 John and the Apocalypse with John. The chapter on the second-temple period has been moved to an appendix so as not to interrupt the flow of the presentation of the biblical story-line and theology of mission.”
The Bible and Mental Health: Towards a biblical theology of mental health, edited by Christopher C. H. Cook and Isabelle Hamley (SCM Press, £25 (Church Times SPECIAL PRICE £20); 978-0-334-05977-6).
“Is it possible to develop such a thing as a biblical theology of mental health? How might we develop a helpful and pastoral use of scripture to explore questions of mental health within a Christian framework?
“This timely and important book integrates the highest levels of biblical scholarship with theological and pastoral concerns to consider how we use scripture when dealing with mental health issues.”